A meandering blog post inspired by graduation….
This time of year always reminds me of why going to school is still the most important thing to a lot of students, especially for students like the special needs ones that I work with.School isn’t only about racking-up credits and getting the highest grades. For some students, it’s about making friends, learning how to work with all kinds of people, and becoming responsible and confident — essentially, it’s about getting to know who you are and how much more you could do with your life.

Last week, three students from my program graduated, and all three will head-on to post-secondary schools. But their course loads won’t be English 101 or Calculus 101.  Instead, all three of them will take vocational training courses at places like Kwantlen or Capilano University. One of the grads already knows he wants to continue his cooks training, so he’s heading to VCC in the fall for culinary training, and eventually, he hopes to specialize in aboriginal cuisine.

It’s taken these students all of high school to get to this stage — the stage where they are confident travelling all over the city to different work experience placements, where they can follow instructions, deadlines, cooperate with others, and have the confidence to believe they can accomplish something. And they could not have gotten to this point in their development unless they had opportunities for integration and attended high school just like any other teen.

Sometimes people think that if a student has special needs, they can never contribute to society. But this is the third year in a row that grads from the program are moving on to post-secondary. They have a desire to do something positive and helpful and they just need a chance to pursue that.

When I taught English, I sometimes lost sight of the fact that not every single student is going to head to university and major in English. Sometimes, you get too immersed in one subject or a set of skills and you forget there’s a world out there that the students are a part of.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser’s message from their assessment for learning workshops — “Every student crossing the stage with dignity and options.”

Wouldn’t it be great if every student graduated with a sense of what they are good at and where they will go next with their life?

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